An ADHD-Friendly Way to Lose Weight? Yes!

By Linda Williams Swanson

Imagine if you set goals of gaining weight and living an unhealthy lifestyle. If those were your goals, you do the things I did for several decades of my life:

  • Eat food of all kinds available 24-7, and eat often.
  • Eat to soothe emotions when feeling sad, anxious, or stressed.
  • Eat to ease boredom.
  • Eat when you can’t sleep.
  • Jump from one diet plan to another — plans that restrict your food intake, make demands on your executive functioning, and that required you to record total food consumption, caloric intake, and daily weight.

I didn’t know it, but something else was affecting my lifestyle choices – ADHD. I didn’t get my ADHD diagnosis until my mid-60s, but it was always huge factor in my weight challenges.

Today, we are more aware of the impact ADHD has on your weight. Dr. Roberto Olivardia, states someone with ADHD is four times more likely to become obese than someone without ADHD.

I tried dieting – often! Twice I lost 60 pounds. The pounds returned after my first diet “success.” And they were coming back after my second 60-pound loss, at least until I found a better, ADHD-friendly way to control my eating and my weight.

Almost eight years ago, I made a lifestyle choice that has worked for me like nothing else. Intermittent Fasting has been a very positive experience for me.

Many people hear the word “fasting” and assume it would be impossible for them to follow this plan for eating. Don’t let the word scare you off! You already fast while you sleep. Intermittent Fasting extends the time you go without eating each day.

I asked Dr. Russell Barkley for his thoughts on Intermittent Fasting for adults with ADHD. His feedback was quite positive. He explained that Intermittent Fasting’s simplicity makes it such a good plan for those of us with ADHD. I agree.

There is one basic rule of Intermittent Fasting: eat only during your eating window. That’s it! One simple rule! Diets make huge demands on your executive functions, where ADHD adults struggle most. Intermittent Fasting (IF) is simple!

As an intermittent faster, you have no records to keep. The only thing to consider when you think of eating is, “Am I in my “eating window?” – the hours you have chosen for eating. If the answer is yes, you may eat. If the answer is no, you may have something non-caloric to drink.

How does fasting result in weight loss? When our bodies have received no food for 12-14 hours, they burn stored fat as the energy source. Complicated biological processes are behind it, but this is the primary one. When we ‘graze’ around the clock, we run on short-term energy from food. After 12-14 hours of fasting, our bodies use stored fat as fuel. And the pounds begin to disappear. (Many other health benefits result from this process.)

Several different eating schedules qualify as “intermittent fasting.” In one, you fast two full days each week and eat the other five days. I did not try that plan, as fasting for two days seemed too drastic.

Instead, I eat during the same five-hour eating window every day. I fast (but stay hydrated) the balance of every 24 hours. Some people have an eating window of eight or even ten hours each day. Others have shorter windows.

The easy Intermittent Fasting regimen I use is 5/19. It has a five-hour eating window and 19-hour fasting window. It allowed me to achieve my goal weight. I eat from 7 AM to noon each day. If you choose to try Intermittent Fasting, you may choose a 6/18, an 8/16 or even a 10/14 plan. You may prefer the eating window later in the day so you can have dinner with friends or family. It’s up to you.

Some people start Intermittent Fasting with a longer eating window. They shorten it as their body adapts to the new schedule. I eat a good breakfast, a snack, and eat lunch by noon. I drink water throughout the day. If I’m a little hungry during my fasting window, I drink a cup of hot tea and the hunger is gone. If you try Intermittent Fasting, experiment to find a plan that works well for you – one that lets you achieve the results you want.

You can eat whatever you want within your eating window. Some intermittent fasters are omnivores and eat anything and everything they want. Others are vegetarians or vegans. What we all have in common is that we all eat only within our designated eating windows.

On this plan, you don’t track your weight, food, or calories. It makes fewer demands on your executive functions, so it’s less challenging for adults with ADHD. As a bonus, the eating schedule provides much needed structure to the day. Each day follows the same pattern, with an “eating window” and a “fasting window.” That structure can be a huge support.

Intermittent Fasting is not recommended for people who are underweight or suffering from an eating disorder. It is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women or for children under 18. As with any significant lifestyle change, check with your doctor. Be sure you don’t have conditions that make Intermittent Fasting a poor choice for you.

When you have ADHD, support can make Intermittent Fasting much easier to start. When I started Intermittent Fasting, I had my own built-in support group. My husband and I began (and continue) together. We have shared our challenges and successes.

As an adult with ADHD, I saw the benefits of Intermittent Fasting. I also found it much easier to start Intermittent Fasting with a partner. As an ADHD coach, I have created a similar opportunity for other adults with ADHD. Discover the benefits of Intermittent Fasting for weight control and healthy living. You can do it in an Intermittent Fasting coaching support group. I call the program Fast Forward to Success. Each program includes eight, weekly 90-minute Zoom sessions. Since it’s a virtual program, join from wherever you are.

Two new Fast Forward to Success groups begin on February 25. One is at noon Eastern and the other is at 7 pm Eastern. Register now, because Early Bird Pricing (a 20% discount) is available through February 16.

Find more information here. See testimonials from previous participants. Schedule a free 20-minute conversation with me. We’ll make sure Intermittent Fasting, and the Fast Forward to Success program, are right for you!

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      • Shannon Cossey
      • February 13, 2020
      Reply

      I have been using intermittent fasting for around 6 years now (diagnosed with ADHD 4 years ago). I began with the eat-stop-eat approach with 1 to 2 days of 24 hour fasting per week, which eventually became a 16 hour daily one (convenience and a set plan). In doing so it made my life much more convenient and satisfying. There is no need to slow down for a morning breakfast. I get to feel full in the evening (making it easier to slumber). I had tried many other diets prior to fasting and to be honest they were miserable and even unhealthy long term in many ways. I now can eat balanced / nourished, without wiping out anything unnecessarily.
      I’ve never looked back, and have adopted it as part of my life style. I got to the point where I hit my goal (lost half of my current weight at the time) and now expand the window / caloric density to gain lean weight periodically.

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